History, significance, and relationships play a huge part in the depreciation-resistance of a luxury wristwatch. If a watch was popularised by someone famous (like the Hamilton Ventura and Elvis, or the Monaco and Steve McQueen), it can fearlessly face down time; if a watch was the first of its kind, or a total aesthetic outlier, it will age gracefully (even if it is an objective monstrosity); if a watch is tied to a particular point in history, or inextricably linked to a feted event, it stands a pretty good chance of holding its value for generations to come.
A lot of the value attached to watches associated with, or even specifically created for an event, is reliant on the congruity of the pairing – how much sense does it make? Another important factor is the level of collector interest in the event itself, irrespective of previous interest in watches. If a watch appeals to collectors from multiple fields, it is more likely to succeed.
Shooting for the Moon
Two of the best examples of event-inspired watches from history come from the same brand. Omega’s partnership with the Olympic games was seminal. It changed the face of luxury timekeeping forever. The games provide countless collectibles every four years. Museums and private treasure-troves the world over, are packed to the rafters with trinkets, curios, and knickknacks commemorating this quad-annual celebration of sport and culture.
Image supplied, courtesy of Omega
Not only did Omega step in to the sporting realm at the right time, they were also on the forefront of scientific exploration. In the 1960s, they produced the Omega Speedmaster, which became the first watch on the moon. Its Plexiglas crystal made it perfectly resistant to the constant bombardment of space dust while outside of the lunar module. What some on Earth would consider its weakness became its strength. Where even sapphire would shatter, Plexiglas could flex and survive. Omega has since released many watches commemorating the successful moon landings and other ventures into space. There is a huge pre-owned market for Speedmasters, driven by fans of astronautical and horological history alike.
Fashionable Friends Fall Short
More recently, though, we’ve seen a lot of partnerships that are little more than billboards: An opportunity for some mutual back scratching that elevates neither the event, nor the special edition product. If you are a collector of either, then perhaps some merit can be found, but for the most part, these relationships are hollow, impermanent collusions that offer little in the way of long term investment.
Image supplied, courtesy of Bremont
One of the most interesting recent collaborations is that of British brand Bremont and the America’s Cup race. Bremont, a brand renowned for its aviation background, cleverly justifies their involvement with the storied contest by reminding us the ‘pilots’ of these boats, actually take flying lessons to learn how to handle their craft.
What makes this partnership interesting, though, is the fact Omega has links to sailing, and even used to produce the America’s Cup watches (although Bremont is the official timekeeper these days). A multi-brand collection united by a single event is a rousing possibility. Were the America’s Cup to find itself a new timekeeping partner in the near future, owning the earlier iterations of the competition’s specially produced watches would be a real coup.
And I suppose that is the crux of any collection – one-offs are great, but it is context that creates true value. Owning many items within the same vein makes for a far more cohesive cache. But these kind of collections are rarely compiled by accident, and expensive to assemble deliberately. But then that’s all part of the fun, and why watch collecting is an endlessly enthralling, emotional rollercoaster that we all love to ride.
About the Author: Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.